Is this the year you’ve decided to get back into the traditional workforce? I’ve worked in Human Resources for 15 years, so I’ve been on the recruiter and hiring manager side of this equation often, and talked with friends who have been on the job-seeker-after-hiatus side as well. If landing a job is on your to-do list, I offer a few insider tips (and some words of encouragement) here:
- Use your network! This is not a new concept, as we’ve all heard the high statistics about how many jobs are attained based on who you know. Mention your return to work to your friends, family, social networks, church community, literally anyone who has a job or knows someone who has a job. You never know who may hear of an opportunity that they can pass along to you, or better yet, tell the hiring manager all about you and your awesome qualifications.
…BUT, don’t get hung up on it if you don’t have a big network in the profession or market in which you’d like to work. Despite those high statistics, I’ve personally landed many interviews and jobs without an inside connection, and hired countless employees sans a referral as well.
- Spin what you’ve been doing outside of the traditional workforce to your advantage. This may take some creativity, but it’s not that hard to correlate a variety of activities to skills valued in the traditional workforce. Do you volunteer at school or with another organization, hold a position on a committee, or participate on a team of any sort? Do you write, sell something, or stay involved in a professional organization in your free time? One caveat: I wholeheartedly know that managing a household is valuable and challenging work with a lot of transferrable skills. But the reality is that recruiters aren’t going to take that seriously…so this one does need to be something outside of your home/immediate family (even if virtually).
…BUT if you’re coming up blank on tangible recent experience you can spin? Check out sites like FlexJobs or Upwork, or work with a temp agency to take on a few freelance or short-term assignments to give yourself some recent experience to add to that resume.
- If there’s an option to include a cover letter when applying for a job, use it! Be brief, and explain the gap in your resume. Add a few bullet points listing those ways you kept up on skills and/or contributed outside of your home, if applicable. If there’s no option for a cover letter, see if you can hunt down the recruiter or hiring manager’s contact info, and shoot them an email. Don’t attach a separate document in this case, just put your letter in e-format (no header, keep it short and easy-to-read since it may be read on their phone). Title your email with the position you’re applying for and some highlights of your qualifications to grab their attention, for example: “Marketing Manager – 10 years of Experience.” If you were referred by a current employee at that company or a mutual acquaintance of the recruiter/hiring manager, mention “Referred by [Name]” to increase the chance of being read even further.
…BUT, don’t be discouraged if you can’t make a personal connection and/or the company’s application system doesn’t take a cover letter. That’s pretty common. If you’re interested in the position, go for it – you never know! Recruiters and hiring managers are often parents too, and they get it.
- Take the initial interview, even if you’re not that interested in the position. It’s great practice! Most companies start the hiring process with a phone interview if they see a potential match based on your resume or a referral. So, there’s minimal time commitment on your end (20-30 minutes is typical, and you don’t have to change out of your yoga pants). Come prepared with some questions, but focus on answering their questions, learning about the position and the company, NOT the specifics of benefits, perks or policies. Those may be important factors in your decision, but you and the company need to assess the position and organizational fit first and foremost. Go ahead and ask for the salary range if you’re not offered it first, but things like their work-from-home policy or 401(k) match are more appropriate at or near the offer stage.
…BUT, don’t go beyond a phone interview if you’re truly not interested. In-person interviews are great to practice too, but your time is valuable, as is the company’s. Don’t play games; after a couple phone interviews, you’ll have your “elevator pitch” down and the confidence you need for the in-person meetings that are worth lining up childcare for.
- This one stings…if after some time you’re not gaining much traction returning to the same job title or salary you held when you left your last position, be willing to consider taking a step back in job title and/or a pay cut (within reason). Despite feeling “unfair,” put yourself in the hiring manager’s position, where they are likely comparing your great experience with a recent gap of employment versus someone equally qualified without one. This gets you back in the game and in the swing of work, a transition that will no doubt be quite an adjustment for you and your family. You rocked that job title and were promoted up from it years ago? Well good – you’ll get back on track quickly and set yourself up for a promotion just like you did back then!
Job searches can be daunting, especially if you’re rusty. But they can also be fun and exciting as you work toward a new chapter! If you need more encouragement or advice on your return to work, feel free to email me or comment below. Anyone else have some words of wisdom to share on getting back into the traditional workforce?